Four dream trips to beautiful Thai islands

Advice

Whether you want bliss on the beach, jetsetter glitz or yoga in the jungle, these tropical islands can oblige

1. Check in and chill on Koh Lanta

Days full of white sands, blue seas and rainbow-bright marine life, and long balmy nights drinking booze from coconut shells – all this can be yours on Koh Lanta

Why it’s special 

It involves a flight, a minibus and a speedboat to reach the sugary shores of Koh Lanta, but it’s worth it. The island’s mixed population of Muslim-Thais, Chinese-Thais and Urak Lawoi people has endowed Koh Lanta with its own unique, far more chilled character than other Thai islands. 

Imagine water buffalo plodding down the beach at sunrise, zero jet-skis, friendly vendors selling curries and coconuts on the roadside and a Jack Jones soundtrack at bars built from bamboo. The shimmering Andaman Sea dazzles, backed by nodding clumps of coconut trees, and the marine life is some of the prettiest and most accessible in Asia. Colourful reef fish dart offshore – yellow and black bannerfish, orange and white “Nemo” clownfish, powder-blue surgeonfish – while a visit to nearby islands reveals bigger treasures for divers, from whale sharks to manta rays.

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2. Workout and play on Koh Pha Ngan

Famous for its full-moon parties, this enduringly beautiful island has an indomitable hippie vibe and some of the best yoga retreats in south-east Asia.

A boat bobbing off Koh Pha Ngan

A boat bobbing off Koh Pha Ngan

Credit:
getty

Why it’s special  

Early morning in the shala, and warbles and trills rise from the jungle canopy as limbs stretch, prayer flags flutter, mantras are chanted and sun salutations begin. Experienced yogis are bending themselves into improbable shapes, others are struggling to hold downward-facing dog (flexibility takes practice; yoga is a marathon, not a sprint). Here at the relaxed Yoga Retreat (yogaretreat-kohphangan.com), days are spent mastering Ashtanga yoga and meditation, or spring-cleaning the body with a liquid detox. Between sessions, you can hire a moped to rumble along to the nearest soft-sand bay or waterfall, flop on the beach, or get a joint-cracking massage as the waves roll gently in. 

All this is a world apart from the full-moon madness for which the island is famous. You can tune into the island’s more relaxed, spiritual side at some of the best yoga retreats in south-east Asia. Among them are the much-lauded Sanctuary (thesanctuarythailand.com) on lovely Haad Tien Bay, which has carved out a reputation for flowing Vinyasa and slow-paced Yin yoga, and Orion (orionhealing.com), with its detox and lifestyle programmes, holistic yoga and reiki academy. The beaches are sensational, too: in the north, Hat Khuat (Bottle Beach) is a paradise-like scoop of blond sand with turquoise water; in the east is coconut grove-backed Hat Sadet; in the north-west, Secret Beach for sunset cocktails. Come for a week, or come for three months, if you can. 

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3. Go glam on Phuket 

Asia’s glitziest hideaway is home to dramatically beautiful scenery and some of the world’s most exclusive hotels.     

Why it’s special  

Wafts of scented oils, billowing white muslin drapes, chilled bottles of Ruinart and superyachts gliding past all set the scene for a luxury holiday in Phuket. With its jungly landscape, diamond white beaches and stylish resorts, the Pearl of the Andaman has attracted the glitterati for decades. Lounging on Thailand’s rugged Andaman Coast, the island offers world class diving and extraordinary experiences, from unravelling at spa retreats – see Amanpuri for the ultimate jetsetter spa experience – to beach clubbing and hanging out on beautiful uninhabited islands. Visit during the December to March high season.  

Find out more about this holiday, including how to book it

Amanpuri

Amanpuri

4. Thailand’s far-flung islands

Think of dreamy Thai islands and you’re probably envisioning somewhere like the palm-painted wildlife-filled isles that make up Koh Tarutao National Marine Park.

Why it’s special 

Down south, near the border with Malaysia, Tarutao National Marine Park isn’t the easiest to reach, which is why its 51 forested islands remain almost completely pristine, a vision of dramatically large limestone islands jutting out of the Listerine-green Andaman Sea. Most of the islands are uninhabited but visitors can stay on Koh Lipe, blessed with some of the most gorgeous beaches in the country – wide, creamy, so soft it’s impossible to leave footprints – and venture by boat to other uninhabited islands such as Koh Tarutao, Koh Adang and Koh Rawi on day trips.

Koh Tarutao

Koh Tarutao

Credit:
getty

While the snorkelling here is fairly good (it’s possible to see hawksbill turtles, reef sharks, seahorses and even whale sharks at the right time of year), it’s what lies inland that truly impresses, with the islands’ towering peaks, tangled rainforests, sublime beaches and rich variety of flora and fauna.

Find out more about this holiday, including how to book it

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